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Greece finances back in order; EU body suggests ending disciplinary actions

Greece recorded a 0.7% surplus last year and is expected to have a deficit of only 1.2% in 2017

Reuters  |  Brussels 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Greece's fiscal position has improved and the should end disciplinary procedures against it over its excessive deficit, the commission said on Wednesday, paving the way for the country to return to bond markets.

fiscal rules oblige member states to keep their budget deficits below 3 per cent of their economic output or face sanctions that could entail hefty fines, although so far no country has received a financial penalty.

recorded a 0.7 per cent surplus last year and is expected to have a deficit of only 1.2 per cent in 2017.

"Our recommendation to close the excessive deficit procedure for is another positive signal of financial stability and economic recovery in the country," Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.

Ending the procedure — a step that must still be confirmed by states — would further reduce the pressure on Athens after creditors unblocked new loans to it worth 8.5 billion euros ($9.6 billion) last week as part of its 86 billion euro bailout programme.

Greek Prime Minister welcomed the commission's recommendation and said the was "steadily returning to European normality," according to a statement released by his office on Wednesday.

"The government will continue focusing on exiting once and for all the bailout programme in August 2018," he said.

Ending the disciplinary procedure, which was widely expected, should help in issuing new bonds in the coming weeks or months. With the exception of two bonds in 2014, Athens has been absent from the markets since the start of the debt crisis in 2009.

The EU's economics commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said the prospect of borrowing in the market again was becoming "more credible" and said it had become a "more and more reliable country".

The Greek is expected to grow 2.1 per cent this year, above the average, according to commission forecasts, although its unemployment rate remains the highest in the at 21.7 per cent in April.

Returning to the markets would help smoothly end its latest bailout programme, the third since 2010, which is due to end in August 2018. creditors are encouraging to test the markets before the conclusion of the financial aid programme.

Investors and bankers told Reuters on Tuesday that could return to markets in the next few weeks.

As the bloc's is firmly on a recovery path, only France, Spain and Britain remain under the fiscal disciplinary procedure for their excessive deficit.

The French government has reassured Brussels of its intention to bring its deficit below 3 per cent of output from 3.4 per cent last year.